Artist, lecturer, poet and athlete, Randy Abubakar Bentinck’s work surrounds realistic and abstract with him dabbling in a bit of surreal art. And just recently his collection of poems Seduced, was acclaimed Best Seller in Amazon’s Caribbean and Latin American Poetry category.
Randy, who hails from Belladrum, West Coast Berbice, found himself drawn to art from a rather young age. He was always fascinated with literature, but art was his first love. According the artist he wrote art twice at the CXC level securing a grade three. Not satisfied he decided to write it a second time around, again resulting in a grade three.
Randy always considered his work to be impressive and though his results said differently, he was not discouraged. He took his art teacher, Brian Elcock’s advice and applied to E R Burrowes School of Art. Before his four years at the art school were up, Randy was already producing outstanding work. He majored in painting and minored in sculpting. His last assigned piece was called the major task where artists are required to create a piece made from both the areas they would have minored and majored in. To prepare for this piece, Randy did some research on the work of three artists – Georgia O’Keefe (American) and Aubrey Williams and Dudley Charles (both Guyanese). “My major task was titled ‘The Coloured Vision – The Ackee Series’. I looked at it from the standpoint of studying shape and form and colour. I would have studied the work of [the above-mentioned artists] in the run up to making the piece,” Randy said.
For his drawings, the artist uses mostly the graphite pencil and of recent he has been doing most of his portraits in Conté crayons, soft-toned coloured pencils; he prefers to use the red colour. His paintings are done in acrylic mainly though he has done some of his work using oil paint but has since stopped after learning of it being harmful to one’s health over a long period because of its toxic nature.
As regards needing wood for a sculpture, Randy noted that art has a way of changing a man further explaining that while an ordinary man would easily cut a tree down for whatever reason, artists come to see things differently and would wait for that tree to fall. “Back in the days we used to wait for the Samaan tree to fall and when they fall the artists would know and they would inform their other colleagues. There are other options of buying greenheart or purpleheart from the lumber yard but the traditional way to go is waiting for a tree to fall.
“Art to me is self-expression, one of the reasons I would have branched off into poetry. Whatever ideas I think about if I’m not able to express it in painting then I draw and if not drawing then I write. I look at [art] as a mode of expression and whatever it is that I’m passionate about that I may want to send a message to society then I consider it as a form of expression. Art is also a tool that I used to teach and to inform,” the Burrowes’ lecturer said.
Just as Randy took up art in secondary school, he did so with poetry in fifth form. “I had literature teacher called Mr Sobers. After [I] read Michael Smith’s “Meh Cyann Believe It” I took an interest in the subject. We were fortunate to have had some very good teachers. When we had those literature books, we would have literature sessions and they would have read while we followed. The way they would have delivered the [passages, stories] would have drawn my attention to literature. I enjoyed books like Green Days by the River….”
When ask to best describe himself Randy says he is a lifelong learner. He describes himself also as one who could never limit himself and explains that as being the reason for choosing to do both art and poetry. This has also led to him being open minded and never just settling for just one explanation of anything. Having a curiosity about the human mind, Randy is always reading books on philosophy and spiritual books as well along with anything that has to with self-development.
He believes so much in the mind that he shares about one experience that occur while teaching in the Bahamas. Teachers were given a two-year contract with that contract being renewed based on the students’ performance at the final examination. In many cases students who do art are students who would not have been strong in the other subject areas and they are usually the ones who are struggling, yet the art teachers’ productivity is measured with the same measuring stick as the other teachers though according to Randy they shouldn’t have been as they were many times given the weak students. Yet he managed to stay contracted for 14 years. He decided to do some research on the human mind and using some of the same tactics his own teachers would have used encouraging him by telling him that he could do better, he did the same with his students. In addition to encouraging them, Randy also directed them on the different things they could try to solve themselves. Another thing he did was to repeat to them as often as he could what they should do. He explained that by doing this made it easier for them to remember what it was they needed to do, to achieve what it was that they were hoping for. Repetition allowed them to master art. “When I implemented this, I saw a difference in their performance along with a better understanding of the subject, and a boost in their self-confidence”. Another tactic that he uses is by offering to a free portrait for the person who aces the class. He usually charges US$300 for one of his portraits.
Whether a realistic representation or one done in the abstract form is more difficult to do, Randy explained that they both have their own unique challenges. While a painting done in real form requires the artist to be as exact, abstract on the other hand challenges the artist to use the right symbols, the right shades, colour, tone, and shapes, all of which contributed to the message being sent.
Art, he said is not appreciated here as it should be. Randy added that if we can first start by appreciating our own culture and trying to preserve it, we are contributing towards valuing art.
Speaking on artists being able to make a living from art, the artist said that it is possible if the right strategies are used when it comes to marketing. This is one of the reasons he published his poems. While some artists claim that they don’t see the necessity of a degree when one is talented in the arts or may have had parents told them they’d rather them pursue a different career path because they don’t think art pays well, Randy encourages artists that if art is their passion to not be discouraged but to pursue career in this and not to think education is not important because even in art it is. Educating oneself in their passion allows them to maximize on their talent and on their potential in this area. “Parents need to encourage their children to be lifelong learners and thinkers because too many persons are becoming followers. Nobody wants to think for themselves. If you take the time to be passionate about learning and thinking for yourself, you will be successful….”. Randy added that there’s a lot that can be done in the graphic arts industry. While the challenge for artists and designers is the Chinese with their mass productions, Randy noted that an artiste will now have to step away from the traditional thinking as persons are going for the mass-produced stuff. Artists, he said, should do a painting and have a number of copies printed and sold for a lower cost so as to make the money just as the Chinese are doing. Asked whether doing this won’t make an artist feel undervalued, Randy added that if one was going to look at it from a commercial point of view then they would have to be willing to make a few sacrifices.
In a world where people are so schooled in the things that they should do some artists prefer to be traditional and go about their art as is expected by society. Rare would one find artists who would freely express themselves or more so express themselves in a way contrary to the conventional society. Are artists free to express themselves as they like, the question was asked. Randy answered that in fact it is, except many are fearful of what the consequences will be should they not conform to traditional beliefs. One has to be rebellious enough to withstand the chastisement such action would cause Randy said. Asked whether he could say for sure if he is this sort of artist, one who expresses himself freely, Randy said that time will tell but he is certain that he is no artist that will be limited.
Some of his paintings are: Portrait of Ackee, Two Seeds, Crucifixion, Tension, Striking Light, Solitude, Mount Zion on My Mind, Protective Coat, In Preparation and Emerging.
The man went on to say that choosing to come back to Guyana many of his colleagues deemed him to be crazy especially when teaching and art paid better in the Bahamas, but he assured them that whatever teaching and art didn’t take care of financially, his books would as he had already planned to have his poems published. Randy’s debut collection Of all the Lilies was published in 2017. The second he co-authored with his daughter, Ackeeni Bentinck Underneath the Poetry with My Girl followed by Underneath the Poetry with Her Diary, which focuses on domestic violence and abuse from a female perspective. This particular one was based on his experience as a teacher where he had female students who confided as it relates to abuse and harassment. He published also Bad Girl Sticken. His best since would turn out to be Seduced, which saw him selling almost 30 Kindle and paperback copies in a month that led to him being rated the Best Seller in Amazon’s Caribbean and Latin American Poetry category. Currently the poet is working on another book expected to be bigger than Seduced called Sultry. It is set to hit the market by the end of this year or early next year. His books spread across three major book format – Kindle, Paperback and AudioBook.
Somethings to know about the artist – His favourite colour is blue; he is a vegetarian; his favourite dish is cookup; Randy participates in any national distance athletic competitions specifically the 5k and the 10k. He earned his degree in Fine Arts at the University of Guyana and his post grad in Education Administration there also. In his free time, he plays basketball, golf, does meditation and also does a lot of reading and research. He can be followed on Instagram at Randy_Bentinck